Heide Gardner
Apr 2, 2020

COVID-19: Now is the time to double down on diversity

In uncertain times, greater sensitivity and pro-action can prompt inclusive behaviours, fairness and equity to help people manage, perform well and operate with dignity and respect.

COVID-19: Now is the time to double down on diversity

Heide Gardner, chief diversity and inclusion officer, IPG.

The COVID-19 pandemic has business leaders from all industries and functions focused on continuity and contingency planning, delivering for their customers and trying to care for their people. This pace and level of uncertainty can add to the potential for blind spots in decision-making and day-to-day interactions without complete mindfulness of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). 

To ensure that we keep up with the progress we made in DEI, it is vital to step back for a macro view of where we were headed before the pandemic so we can all keep focused. 

It’s also important to be hyper-sensitive and intentional about inclusion today. To achieve both goals, IPG has created a number of resources to help ourselves and others maintain healthy environments for belonging, feeling valued, and contributing our best during these unprecedented times. 

We are sharing these resources widely as now, more than ever, is a time for caring.

IPG’s Global DEI Group is offering support through our new guide, ‘Intentional Inclusivity While Working Remotely’, and an expanding resource centre, Inclusive@Work.  

Let’s Not Lose Ground

The beginning of 2020 brought many promises. There was a clear pivot from diversity and inclusion as unpleasant ‘problems’ of representation to thoughtful reframing as vital resources for agility, high performance, innovation and creativity. Companies began to weave DEI into their purpose and obligations for equity and social progress. Investors were also paying attention, and players like Bloomberg and Refinitiv are collecting data and indexing companies based on their performance.  

One stunning landmark was the Business Roundtable’s new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation focusing on companies’ obligations beyond shareholder returns and including diversity and inclusion. The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion grew to over 800 chief executives and was moving to tackle the deepest of uncomfortable issues. 

On a global level, inequality was front and center at Davos. Companies were investing in progress by sponsoring research on topics like the experience of black professionals in corporate America, the energy-sapping coping strategies of People of Color and pushing out inclusion on many fronts to the point that use of preferred gender pronouns became almost commonplace.  

Let’s Keep Our Industry on Track 

There were many indicators of possibilities specific to our industry. A new Advancing Diversity Council launched during CES to hack collective actions for recruitment and retention and the UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance had organised an unprecedented international summit of government policy makers, diplomats, agencies, advertisers and media. The Cannes Lions Festival even adopted Unstereotype jury criteria.  

Let’s Focus on Intentional Inclusivity While Working Remotely—For Now and in the Future

The significance of dimensions of diversity and intersectional identity are playing out in ways that many of us could not have foreseen. A month ago, we could not have imagined public discourse suggesting that groups, like older people or those with health problems, should sacrifice themselves or be sacrificed. There seems to be a lot of positive action to address how the intersections of gender and family status are affecting people and the outsize impact that remote working can have on the physical and psychological wellbeing of parents and especially women who still tend to bear the brunt of responsibility in the home.  

Greater sensitivity and pro-action can prompt inclusive behaviours, fairness and equity to help people manage, perform well and operate with dignity and respect. As fears of job loss and stress mount, we need to be mindful that people may be less likely to express concerns, even though certain segments are likely to be more sensitive about their age, gender identity, caregiving status, disability, race and ethnicity, nationality and other social categories. As we are all navigating these new realities, IPG’s Global DEI Group is offering support and resources at www.inclusiveatwork.com

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